Review 1540: The Uninhabited House

Miss Blake is an eccentric figure whose arrival is looked forward to by the clerks in Mr. Craven’s office, including Harry Patterson, the narrator. She only arrives when the tenants have unexpectedly left her niece’s house, which is all too often. For the house has a reputation.

Miss Blake and her ward Helena have been a charge on poor, kind-hearted Mr. Craven since the death of Robert Elmsdale, Helena’s father. Thought to be wealthy, he was found to be in considerable debt when he died. Now, the house in which he died is supposedly haunted. Mr. Craven doesn’t believe in ghosts and supposes someone is trying to keep the house from being occupied.

After a disastrous lawsuit resulting from the early vacancy of the house by a tenant, Miss Blake declares she will pay £50 to anyone who can solve the mystery of the house. Although Miss Blake has never paid any of Mr. Craven’s bills, Mr. Craven is so desperate to relinquish Miss Blake’s account that he vows to pay the money to anyone who can solve the mystery.

Patterson finds himself in need of money, because he has fallen in love with Helena Elmsdale. So, he volunteers to stay in the house and try to discover its secrets.

This is a joyful little novel despite its theme. Patterson tells the story with plenty of gentle, good-natured humor, and his affection for Mr. Craven is very clear. The mystery is perhaps not too confounding, but the book itself is a pleasure to read, with eccentric characters and lots of atmosphere. Is it a ghost story as well as a mystery? I’ll never tell.

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7 thoughts on “Review 1540: The Uninhabited House

  1. Christine August 11, 2020 / 3:07 pm

    This looks good – filing it away in that section of my brain devoted to remembering books I want to read (and, also, adding it to my GR list).

    • whatmeread August 11, 2020 / 4:16 pm

      My Goodreads list is a lot more reliable than my memory!

      • Christine August 11, 2020 / 6:43 pm

        Same, lol!

  2. FictionFan August 11, 2020 / 6:53 pm

    I loved this one! The British Library reissued it a couple of years ago as a double-bill with Fairy Water, which was also good fun, although overall I preferred this one. Why do these books become forgotten? They’re often much better than some of the ones that are remembered…

    • whatmeread August 11, 2020 / 11:53 pm

      I know. It was really good. I need to read Fairy Water.

  3. Jane August 12, 2020 / 2:27 pm

    I agree this sounds great – I haven’t heard of Forgotten Female Voices, is it an imprint?

    • whatmeread August 12, 2020 / 4:36 pm

      Not sure what you mean by imprint. If you’re asking if it’s a copy from an older manuscript, I don’t think so.

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